The Staffsmen interview: new band from Unearthly Trance members

We’re big fans of Unearthly Trance around here and have written about the band more than once, and are happy to have the chance to write about the bandmembers again. This time, we’re talking with Jay Newman, the bassist from UT (his shorthand for the band), about his new project The Staffsmen.

“I would say ‘psychedelic’ would be the best way to describe The Staffsmen material,” Newman told D.U. over email. He also described the music as having folk elements “because pretty much all of the tracks were written outdoors on an acoustic guitar and use specific percussion elements—gongs, congas, bongos, surdo drums. A friend of mine called the music ‘doom folk’ because of its dark, heavy vibe and minimal nature, but I think if you are looking for traditional doom this might not be for you.”

UT drummer Darren Verni sang on The Staffsmen album Cryptid, while UT frontman Ryan Lipynsky added additional guitar and bass. The album title has to do with cryptozoology. Newman explained that “all the lyrics focus on the search for these creatures, and actually making contact with them whether we like it or not. We thought it would be fun for this album to create these fireside tales, as opposed to more personal or serious metaphysical themes.”

The Staffsmen: Verni (left) and Newman

Before we go any further, let’s shift to the Equinox album, which is a precursor to The Staffsmen. How it came to be starts with the cabin of the band’s lyricist, Peter Play, in the Catskill Mountains. Play penned the lyrics for Cryptid as well as for Equinox. “I had this idea to set up a proper recording environment at the cabin outside and capture the energy and spirit of the property,” Newman said. He pulled Verni and Lipynsky in to the project, enticing them with “doing a psyched out/folk jam session.” They met at the cabin with a bunch of music gear “and hit record and started jamming.”

Newman said the session was very collaborative. All three of the guys shared in the writing process. “Almost all of the music on Equinox was recorded outdoors. All the sounds and field recordings you hear were all done on the property.”

At the cabin

“When the UT trio gets together it always creates a certain magic. I think UT fans will listen to Equinox and hear that chemistry. After the album was finished we almost considered it to be an Unearthly Trance album. In the end we decided to make it a special stand-alone release.”

The album title comes from the recording date of March 20th, 2019—the Spring Equinox. “The Equinox session was a huge inspiration for me. The ideas and concept definitely guided me towards what is now The Staffsmen. When I began writing music after the Equinox session, I had a very clear idea of how I would approach the instrumentation and recording process.” 

Besides psych and folk, there’s also drone elements on Cryptid. “In the context of the album concept, the drones represented part of this quest, a trip up and down this freezing mountain in search of the wildman,” Newman said. “Musically I have always been drawn to ambient, atmospheric music, noise, drones, et cetera. I love the meditative nature of it; I enjoy making it.” The guys used a Moog and tanpura on both albums. “Even throughout UT’s career we always used noise and drone elements, so it feels very natural creating this kind of music.”

Lipynsky, Newman, and Verni at the cabin

While we’re talking about Unearthly Trance, D.U. asked why the band broke back up. “We all just agreed it was time to call it a day. We made a lot of music as Unearthly Trance in the almost 20 years together. It was important to end the band in a positive, healthy manner.

“I obviously still love collaborating with Ryan and Darren, and it is something I hope we continue to do together for a long time, but I felt it was time for me to focus on a project where I was the main songwriter.”

And that project is The Staffmen’s Cryptid. Both that album and Equinox are available on digital, and they’re both highly recommended:

Follow The Staffsmen on Instagram.

Check out our Unearthly Trance coverage here at the blog.

Photos: courtesy Jay Newman.

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